Publications and Reports

CTAC’s reports focus on cutting edge issues in education and community development. Our research and evaluation studies inform practice and guide policy decision-making at local, state and national levels.

Texas Charter School Program High-Quality Replication Grant

Through funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP), the Texas Education Agency (TEA) administered a subgrant competition designed to support the replication of high-quality charter school models throughout the State of Texas. This evaluation report assesses the effectiveness and impact of the CSP High-Quality Replication grant and identifies the mechanisms and potential promising practices exhibited by subgrantees in replicating high-quality charter campuses. The information in this report is designed to contribute to future programmatic decisions and to aid TEA in identifying and disseminating best or promising practices of successful, high-quality replication charter schools and campuses while contributing to the expansion of the number of high-quality charter schools in the state.

Preparing Tomorrow’s Principals Today: A Formative Review of the Missouri Leadership Development System

CTAC conducted an independent, formative review of the Missouri Leadership Development System (MLDS) to learn from educators regarding the implementation of MLDS and to support the state in making evidence-based refinements to the program. The primary goal of MLDS is to develop and support effective school leaders throughout the state at each level of experience in their career—from Aspiring (pre-certificated), to Emerging (initial career entry), through Developing (practicing), and ultimately to the Transformational Principal. The report examines and presents perceptions of program participants of the MLDS competencies, learning experiences, and treatments in strengthening their practice and improving student learning, factors enhancing or impeding the progress of implementation, and benefits and value. It also identifies key issues and provides recommendations for making targeted refinements to the program. This report was made possible by the support of the Central Comprehensive Center.

Next Steps Forward: Teacher and School-Based Administrator Evaluation System

Prepared for the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), the Howard County Education Association, and the Howard County Administrators Association, this report examines the fidelity of implementation of the teacher and school-based administrator evaluation system in Howard County, Maryland. It presents overall perceptions of the evaluation system; the quality, consistency, and manageability of implementation; and capacity building needs. Recommendations provide HCPSS with an actionable pathway for making continuing improvements to reinforce the instructional emphasis of educator evaluation.

Improving Teacher Practice: Debunking the Myth of the Performance Plateau

The CEOs of two of America’s leading education consultancies join forces to argue for school districts to play a more active role in teacher development. The “disheartening” but tenacious myth that new teachers improve for a few years and then coast is dangerous because it causes HR departments to focus on the wrong things, write Bryan Goodwin and William Slotnik. Newer studies have debunked the “performance plateau” and should lead districts in the direction of career-long development for career-long improvement. They propose a four-part plan for making it happen, and point out that a handful of districts have already started.

Getting the Pieces Right: Professional Development, Compensation, and School-Wide Performance

Getting the Pieces Right is the study of the Teacher Incentive Performance Award (TIPA) initiative in Virginia’s Prince William County Public Schools. A $10.9 million, five-year program supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund, TIPA sought to increase student achievement in PWCS’s 30 lowest performing schools by focusing intensively on instructional improvement.

Findings show that TIPA led to statistically significant increases in student achievement in all four core subjects analyzed as measured by Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) test results. TIPA’s processes greatly increased collaboration and instructional dialogue among principals and teachers and strengthened the use of data to inform instruction.

This five-year study describes how TIPA provided incentives that fostered collaborative school-wide improvement efforts. The initiative provided “real time,” tailored professional development to teachers and customized leadership development to the 30 TIPA principals. It implemented a performance-based compensation system combining student growth and achievement measures with 23 measures of school effectiveness, such as positive school culture, effective parent engagement, and teacher leadership. And it awarded school-based compensation bonuses, with administrators/teachers in core subjects eligible for the largest awards.

When Educators Learn, Students Learn

When Educators Learn, Students Learn is the final evaluation of the Learning Leaders initiative in Virginia’s Henrico County Public Schools. A $16.5 million, five-year program supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund, Learning Leaders sought to increase student achievement in eight of Henrico’s lowest performing schools by focusing intensively on instructional improvement.

Findings show that average scores on the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) state tests increased in Learning Leaders schools in all four core subjects analyzed. The gains were statistically significant in science and history. The opposite occurred in comparison schools where scores in all four subjects declined. The initiative’s processes greatly increased instructional feedback and reflection, collaborative dialogue among principals and teachers, and the use of data to inform instruction. Both individual educators and entire schools became more effective.

The five-year study describes how Learning Leaders implemented explicit student growth target setting as well as teacher observations that focused on areas of classroom practice with highest payoff for student learning; provided tailored professional development for teachers and administrators—trainings and workshops as well as one-to-one coaching—based on needs revealed by analysis of student data and teacher observations; and implemented a performance-based compensation system that rewarded individual educators.

Professional Development Review: Learning Leaders

This review examines the professional development (PD) approach designed specifically for the eight Henrico County schools participating in the Learning Leaders initiative. Its two components were: the PD Academy—the vehicle for providing formal trainings and professional development workshops for all Learning Leaders educators; and on-the-job coaching, which provided teachers and administrators with informal professional development. Findings show that the Learning Leaders PD approach in general, and its school-based instructional coaching model in particular, were successful in meeting the district’s instructional improvement objectives for Learning Leaders. The data suggest that the PD approach effectively built teachers’ capacity to set, analyze, and interpret ambitious individual student learning targets that contributed to enhanced achievement. It also promoted a collaborative and “safe” school culture where teachers readily shared their instructional approaches and challenges with their colleagues in the interest of enhancing overall student learning gains.

Stay the Course: Teacher and Principal Evaluation in Maryland

The Maryland State Department of Education is leading and supporting the implementation of a Teacher and Principal Evaluation (TPE) system in all school districts in the state. This report examines the progress Maryland has made during four years of TPE implementation, 2013 to 2016. It includes the direct input of nearly 35% of Maryland’s teachers and principals.

Key findings show educators’ perceptions of TPE are improving as they gain experience implementing all components of the evaluation system; principals and teachers still need support to implement TPE at a high level of effectiveness; and the districts that are making real progress in the consistency of quality implementation are doing so through concerted efforts to build principal and teacher capacity and to align TPE with the instructional framework and priorities of the district.

This report, prepared by CTAC and WestEd through the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center (MACC at WestEd), also includes recommendations which focus on strengthening leadership and further improving implementation at central and school site levels within Maryland’s districts.

Change in Practice in Maryland: SLOs and Teacher and Principal Evaluation

A new comprehensive study shows that Maryland is a national leader in implementing an educator evaluation system statewide.

CTAC and WestEd conducted this study through the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center (MACC at WestEd) to support the Maryland State Department of Education and all of Maryland’s districts.

This report examines the perceptions of frontline educators regarding the support they receive in understanding and implementing the Teacher and Principal Evaluation (TPE) system, and the use of Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) to measure student growth and improve instruction. The study includes the direct input of more than 30% of Maryland’s teachers and principals.

Drawing on three years of data, findings show that TPE implementation is generating changes in practice and perception. With each year of implementation, both principals and teachers are increasingly more positive about TPE.

Recommendations focus on ways to improve the quality, consistency and manageability of implementation within and across districts in Maryland. They are intended to help further inform and strengthen Maryland’s implementation of TPE overall and the SLO component in particular, and broaden the set of supports to frontline educators in the schools.

Real Progress in Maryland: SLOs and Teacher and Principal Evaluation

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) is making significant strides in guiding and supporting the implementation of Student Learning Objectives as well as a teacher and principal evaluation (TPE) system statewide. This report examines frontline educators’ overall perceptions of TPE and key issues in implementation, including quality, consistency, and school, district and state support. The more experience frontline educators have with the new evaluation system, the higher their skill and comfort levels are with its implementation and the more their efforts focus on strengthening instruction. This report, which CTAC and WestEd prepared through the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center (MACC at WestEd), also includes recommendations which focus on ways to strengthen implementation within and across districts in Maryland, while reinforcing the instructional emphasis of TPE.

It’s More Than Money: Teacher Incentive Fund–Leadership for Educators’ Advanced Performance, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

It’s More Than Money is the final evaluation of a comprehensive, performance-based system initiative in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. CTAC’s evaluation demonstrates that high-quality Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) contribute to improving teaching and bolstering student growth. Findings show statistically significant multi-year improvements in growth rates for students of teachers with SLOs compared to those in peer schools without SLOs: 12% greater growth on average in math and 13% greater growth on average in reading.

This five-year study examines the genesis, development, and implementation of the SLO approach together with the incorporation of a value-added measure approach. It provides a study in the opportunities, complexities, benefits, and challenges that arise in measuring and compensating the impact of teacher effectiveness on student growth. It is a chronicle that draws one into the promise of performance-based compensation and a cautionary tale that alerts any district starting down this path that significantly more is at stake than money alone.

Focus on Rhode Island: SLOs and Evaluation

This study assesses and reports on the implementation of the new teacher evaluation system in Rhode Island. In particular, the analysis explains the concerns of teachers, principals and superintendents, and examines ways to build better understanding and more effective implementation of Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). The recommendations reinforce the integrity of the new evaluation system in Rhode Island, respond to needs emerging from the field, and increase the manageability of the new system.

Spotlight on Maryland: SLOs and Teacher and Principal Evaluation

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) is a national exemplar in being transparent as it rolls out and supports a new teacher and principal evaluation (TPE) system statewide. This study focuses on how frontline educators perceive the development and implementation of the TPE system, particularly the support they received in understanding and implementing Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). Through the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center, CTAC and WestEd prepared this report for MSDE. The recommendations reinforce the instructional emphasis of the new TPE system and build on the foundation of support established to date by MSDE.

Levers for Change: Pathways for State-to-District Assistance in Underperforming School Districts

When school districts fail their responsibilities to educate students, state departments of education have to step up and be the responsible party. But do the state agencies have the knowledge and capacity to do what the districts have not done? This CTAC report shows that the most critical lessons from years of state-to-district interventions are in the effective use of three levers for change. State interventions at the district level have educational, organizational, and political dimensions, but these interventions are largely approached from just a one dimensional perspective—educational. Unless the organizational and political dimensions are addressed concurrently with the educational dimension, successful state-to-district interventions will continue to be elusive for the states. This report was commissioned by the Center for American Progress.

It’s More Than Money: Making Performance-Based Compensation Work

The lesson of performance-based compensation is one of institutional change. Gaps between the goals of compensation policy and practice on the one hand, and organizational results on the other, have characteristically come from under-conceptualizing what is involved in performance-based compensation. The impact of performance-based compensation comes from anticipating the consequences of the reform for the entire district. As this CTAC report shows, performance-based compensation involves more than recognizing excellence in teaching; it should expand the system’s overall capacity to support classrooms and improve teaching quality. An effective and sustainable strategy for recruiting, retaining, and rewarding excellence in teaching will provide a fertile ground where teaching thrives as a profession and is nurtured at a greater level of excellence and scale. This report was commissioned by the Center for American Progress.

Focus on Literacy: Professional Development Audit

This report presents the findings from CTAC’s groundbreaking audit of the effectiveness of literacy professional development provided in Duval County Public Schools (Florida). The audit examines the relationship of professional development to student achievement, teachers’ instructional practices, teachers’ perceptions of their craft and of professional development, and financial expenditures. CTAC’s evaluation shows a markedly positive relationship between teacher professional development in literacy and student growth in reading—with student test scores increasing significantly for each six hours of literacy professional development for teachers.

Catalyst for Change: Pay for Performance in Denver Final Report

Catalyst for Change is the final summative report for the Denver Pay-for-Performance initiative that focused on developing a link between student achievement and teacher compensation, and launched a national movement in performance-based reform. This CTAC evaluation is a groundbreaking longitudinal study of impact of performance-based compensation on student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and systemic change. This study found that students whose teachers crafted high quality SLOs outperformed their peers and showed significantly greater gain on two independent measures of student achievement at all three school levels during all years under study. This study provided the research and evaluation base for Congressional approval of the Teacher Incentive Fund.

Pathway to Results: Pay for Performance in Denver

This report presents findings based on the halfway point of the performance-based compensation pilot in the Denver Public Schools. At the mid-point of this program, the initiative was very much in the critical phase of seeking to fully and fairly test the powerful concept—is performance-based compensation a viable and effective strategy for the Board of Education and the Teachers’ Association to use to accomplish their goals? This report contains CTAC’s analyses, findings, and recommendations, and provides the necessary foundation for the mid-course adjustments made to the initiative.

New Directions in Christina: Accomplishments for Children, Challenges Ahead

This CTAC report shows that it is possible to increase student achievement for all student sub-groups, while also bridging the achievement gap. The Christina School District undertook system-wide reforms to address a persistent pattern of underachievement. The report reveals an unusually high level of education progress and highlights the successes gained by the district after a two-year intensive effort to improve education in their public schools. These efforts resulted in increased student achievement for all student sub-groups as measured on three major independent assessments. Moreover, African American and Hispanic students showed the greatest growth—for the first time ever in the district.

Guide for Standard Bearer Schools: Focusing on Causes to Improve Student Achievement

This CTAC guide explains the standards, tools and processes used in assisting entire school communities to identify and address the causal factors that affect student and school performance. The Standard Bearer Schools approach has been the bedrock of successful school turnaround initiatives. Using this process has increased student achievement for all subgroups in diverse urban school districts throughout the nation.

Tying Earning to Learning: The Link Between Teacher Compensation and Student Learning Objectives

Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) have the potential to positively impact the performance of teachers and their students. Based on CTAC’s research and national best practices, this primer analyzes the importance of SLOs and provides a step-by-step guide for successfully designing and implementing SLOs as part of compensation reform.

Myths and Realities: The Impact of the State Takeover on Students and Schools in Newark

This CTAC report addresses the national need for a longitudinal study of the impact of a state takeover of a major urban district. It involves interviewing more than 200 individuals, examining survey responses from nearly 10,000 teachers, parents, students and administrators, and analyzing extensive student and school performance data. The culminating report describes the process that led to the state takeover, delineates the core elements of reform, and details strategies that states should adopt if they are contemplating school district takeovers.

Advise and Consent: A Study of Collaborative Decision-Making in Denver

This CTAC evaluation examines the effectiveness of Collaborative Decision-Making (CDM), Denver’s strategy for site-based management and community involvement. The report analyzes and tests the correlation between school-level data, and perceptions of the school community as to the impact of CDM in its major priority areas. The recommendations provide a pathway for strengthening and using CDM as a more effective vehicle for improving educational opportunities for children.

HIV/AIDS Funding Streams and Planning Groups

Developed as a resource for the Houston community to address HIV/AIDS, this CTAC report provides a comparative view of programs, structures and decision-making processes that can be used as a base for guiding collaborative partnerships. This report is being used in numerous communities nationwide as a model for how to delineate planning groups, funding streams and their respective responsibilities and jurisdictions.

Parents as Partners

This initiative in the Seattle Public Schools focused on results for children of families living in poverty, and non-native English speaking and ethnic minority families. CTAC assessed involvement among a representative sample of parents in the 47,000-student district as well as school and district staff. CTAC then guided a train-the-trainers process to prepare a corps of culturally and linguistically diverse school staff, community organization representatives and parent instructors to train others across the district and community to assume roles as equal partners in school improvement. The initiative engaged parents and community members speaking nine languages (Amharic, Cambodian, Chinese, English, Lao, Somali, Spanish, Tigrigna, and Vietnamese).